The Opioid Crisis, Explained, Shows A Harsh Truth

The Opioid Crisis, Explained, Shows A Harsh Truth

Opioid addiction doesn't discriminate, it will take over any person.
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The abuse of prescription pain relievers and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. Every day more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. Overdose deaths have now surpassed motor vehicle accidents, guns and HIV in the national death rate.

A cause of the opioid crisis is the doctor to patient access to these drugs. The number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by doctors increased from 112 million in 1992 to a peak of 282 million in 2012. The increase in opioid prescriptions was fueled by a multi-faceted campaign underwritten by pharmaceutical companies.

The campaign that started, basically the ultimate opioid takeover, provided information that included patient history and doctoral education courses that all leaned in favor of opioids becoming more commonplace as a rising answer to pain relievers. Originally, opioids were only favored in use of postoperative and end-of-life pain; now, it serves to a wider group catering to everyday situations for people such as fibromyalgia and lower back pain.

The pharmaceutical industry began to notice the highly influential articles easing into opioids becoming more common as typical solutions for any chronic pain. That’s when drugs like OxyContin were being aggressively marketed to doctors everywhere.

Another cause of the opioid crisis is the opposite end of the doctor-patient accessibility to the pain relievers. 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. Approximately 52 million people have used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes at least once.

Since 1999, the number of deaths from overdosing on opioids in one year has quadrupled from 4,000 to 62,000 by 2016. In terms of overall misuse, opioids account for a greater amount of the prescription drug abuse problem.

These drugs are popular, even among those who haven’t been prescribed any medication before. What may be hard to realize is that the possibility of addiction can affect any person, even if you’re taking the correct dosage.

The purpose of the medication is to relieve pain, and eventually, it can become necessary for someone to get out of bed each day. Opioids are even popular as recreational-use drugs. The purpose of a person taking the medication non-medically is to be in a euphoric state-of-mind, a high feeling.

The overall effect of the opioid crisis is the highest national death rate of people overdosing on opioids. Since 1999, the annual death rate for opioid overdose has quadrupled in numbers. In 2016, more than 289 million prescriptions were written for opioid drugs.

In October of 2016, President Trump announced that because of the epidemic, we are officially in a state of emergency. There has been an increase of neonatal abstinence syndrome in newborns, and doing these drugs also puts anyone at high risk for HIV or Hep C. Drug overdoses has also become the leading cause of death for people under 50 as well.

Considering these numbers are the highest they’ve ever been, there’s still the after consequences, there’s still the fact that these people were people. Thousands of children are left in foster care because of the parents overdosing.

These people that are essentially addicted steal, lie and become different people, all under the name of the addiction. And at some points, these people are too far gone to even consider quitting cold turkey because if they do, they’re at higher risk for HIV and accidental overdose.

One thing that’s easy to grasp is that the opioid epidemic seems to be one big well-oiled machine. It’s all basic economics of supply-and-demand. The drug became more popular and essentially was needed more and more every day by regular people. The pharmaceutical industry had its plan to take over and all it took was wooing over the journalists and the doctors.

Because even though the numbers prove that more people may not be in pain since the 90’s, there have still been more prescriptions written. Now, that’s easy to place the blame on the fact that doctors don’t want to see their patients suffering, and considering we’re in the 21st century, it’s easier to prescribe the right medication for any pain.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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I Tried To Lose Weight All My Life But Couldn't Shed The Pounds Until I Turned To God

Now it's easier than ever and I'm never looking back.

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It's amazing how good it feels to get rid of something that has felt like such a tall barrier in your life for so long. For years, and years, honestly, as many years as I can remember, I have felt held back by my weight. It's something that never truly left my mind, whether it was how I looked in my school uniform skort compared to other girls, how I looked in pictures, the thoughts that raced through my head lying in bed that night, or if what I ordered off the menu would make me look fat. It was always something.

Now I have tried, or so I thought I had. I had tried giving up carbs for two weeks, doing workout videos, or eating healthy, occasionally running, or honestly, anything I thought might help a bit. But there I was after a full year of college, heavier than ever.

It was then that I found my secret ingredient, it was then that I found the ultimate weight-loss secret: Prayer.

I found myself amidst a challenge that I didn't know if I was mentally strong enough to handle, faced against temptations of my wildest food dreams. Canes, pizza, chocolate, ice cream, oh my!

I had never thought once about offering up my prayers to God when it came to my weight. I'm not sure why, honestly. It was something that I had struggled with for so long, that it almost felt normal.

Now, when I feel tempted I ask myself a lot if this is the "abundantly more" that God promises us. If it isn't, then I don't pick it. Strength is a process, just like endurance or habits.

I have learned that by offering up the comparisons I feel at the gym, listening to podcasts while running, or Jesus music while practically swimming in my sweat, I am motivated to keep going, not dragged down by the progress I haven't made. I have learned to thank God for the journey He has taken me on so far, and for giving me the capability to overcome these hurdles.

Jesus Didn't die on the cross and tell us to get our butts out there and make disciples of all the nations just for us to sit and be upset with ourselves and compare ourselves to those tiny pictures on our screens. Let's go, we don't have time for that. We have work to do.

No, I'm not saying that if you pray for Jesus to make you lose 15 pounds, the weight will fall off, but I am saying that through Christ, all things are possible, and with Him by my side, the running doesn't feel as difficult.

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Addiction Is A Disease, Not A Choice

It's time society stops turning a blind eye to the facts at hand.

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I recently read an article claiming that addiction is not a disease. And I'm not sorry to say, that's bullshit.

Saying that addiction is not a disease because it starts with a choice is completely discrediting the scientific facts proving that it is a disease of the brain. The American Society of Addiction Medicine classifies addiction as a chronic disease of the brain, and not without good reason.

The article mentioned above has several flaws in its argument. The first flaw in this argument is that it states that addiction is not hereditary or degenerative (which by the way, it is).

There isn't such thing as a single "addiction gene." Instead, there are biological differences, combinations of genes and differences in DNA sequences that can make people more or less susceptible to addiction, as well as certain genes being present that make it easier or harder to stop their use once addiction has begun. These genes and sequences in DNA can be passed down in families, causing those who are related to someone suffering from addiction to be more susceptible to addiction as well. The University of Utah compiled a list of genes that have been linked to playing a role in addiction which can be found here.

Studies of identical twins showed that if one twin was to experience addiction, 76 percent of the time the other twin will also experience addiction, and vice-versa.

The part that really kills me about this article is saying that addiction is not degenerative. I just don't understand how someone could have such a lack of knowledge in the role drugs play on the brain to try and say that they do not cause any deterioration of the brain.

First, we'll start with central nervous system stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines. These drugs speed up brain activity, increase blood pressure and increase heart rate. This causes blood vessels to constrict which causes strokes and can cause blood pressure to become so high it causes sudden death. Chronic cocaine users often experience cardiac arrest or seizures due to their prolonged use. Prolonged use of meth can cause permanent damage to certain brain cells, the most prevalent being those of dopaminergic chemical signaling (causing a decrease in dopamine levels). The University of Utah performed research showing that meth users were three times more likely than non-drug users to develop Parkinson's disease due to the damage of the dopaminergic system. More studies have shown that abuse of drugs such as meth and ecstasy can have neurological consequences that are similar to that of traumatic brain injuries.

Alcoholism can cause those a deficit in vitamins such as Vitamin B1. Lack of this vitamin can cause Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, a disabling disorder that can cause paralysis of nerves controlling the eyes, problems with coordination, involuntary eye movements and double vision. 90 percent of those with this syndrome go on to develop Korsakoff's psychosis which can cause more coordination issues, trouble walking, chronic memory issues and hallucinations.

Data suggest that chronic opioid users, which includes prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet, oxycodone and heroin, modifies the function and structure of the brain that causes issues with impulse control and emotion regulation. Research also suggests that chronic heroin users will experience degeneration of white matter in the brain, which can cause issues with stress management, behavior regulation and the ability to perform decision making.

Inhalants can cause sudden death just like stimulants by causing irregular heart rate and consequently causing heart failure. But along with that, certain inhalants (such as toluene and naphthalene) can cause damage to the myelin sheath in nerves fibers which directly help conduct nerve impulses. More nerve damage due to inhalants can cause complications similar to those who suffer from multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease that causes issues with coordination, weakness in limbs, numbness/tremors, issues with attention/memory, and speech impediments. Chronic use of inhalants can also cause issues with movement, hearing, vision and cognition.

As you can see, chronic drug use does cause degeneration of the body and the brain.

The next part of the article that I have an issue with is the line "A patient with cancer is not cured if locked in a cell, whereas an alcoholic is automatically cured. No access to alcohol means no alcoholism." For someone who is heavily addicted to drugs, quitting cold turkey can be incredibly unsafe. There are plenty of drugs where if you were to put this person locked in a cell and force them to quit, they'll die. For some people, using these drugs long enough causes their body to literally become dependant on them to function. Sudden withdrawal can cause some serious issues. Alcohol withdrawal can cause brain damage, seizures, heart palpitation, and death. A combination of these is called delirium tremens, which occurs in up to 10 percent of all alcoholics who attempt to detox and ultimately kills 35 percent of them. In fact, Psychology Today says that quitting alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids cold turkey, without medical help, can kill you.

Lastly, I have an issue with this article saying "When we allow people to refer to addiction as a disease, we are placing it alongside things like cancer and that is not fair at all." Before I continue, I do not want to discredit how truly awful cancer is. That is not my intention. What I'm irritated with is people saying that addiction and cancer are not comparable. It's true that many forms of cancer develop for reasons unknown that are out of our control. But cancers such as lung cancer (caused by smoking) and melanoma (caused by prolonged exposure to the sun or UV lights, a.k.a. tanning) are things we can control. Would you look at someone with lung cancer or melanoma and say "Well, you decided to smoke/tan. It was a choice you made, so your disease is invalid"? No, you wouldn't. Would you look at someone with diabetes or heart disease and say "Well, you chose to eat poorly and not exercise, so your disease in invalid"? No, you wouldn't.

Yes, addiction starts with the choice of the person to pick up that drug. But their brain and their body literally form a dependency and it is out of their control to whether or not they form an addiction. No one wants to have cancer. No one wants to have diabetes or heart disease. And no one wants to have an addiction to drugs.

While the first use and early stage of addiction is a choice, eventually the brain will change so much that people will lose control of their behavior and will to stop because their body is dependant on the drug. Eating poorly/not exercising is a choice, smoking is a choice and tanning is a choice, yet we accept the diseases that are consequently developed from these choices. Why can we not accept that addiction is also a disease?

It's time society stops turning a blind eye to the facts at hand. Addiction is hereditary, it is degenerative, it can kill, it is a disease. By trying to force the notion that addiction is a choice and not a disease you are preventing people from seeking help from their disease because they fear the societal repercussions. Addiction is a disease, and those suffering deserve all the help that those suffering from other diseases get.

I don't care if you think addiction is a choice; you're wrong. I have presented plenty of backed up facts to prove that this belief is wrong and honestly downright stupid. If you continue to hold onto this notion, you are a part of the problem preventing those affected from getting help.

Addiction is a disease, not a choice. And it's about time we start acting like it.

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